The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

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9780676978001: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
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Winner of the 2009 Warwick Prize for Writing

"Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around."
—Milton Friedman

The shock doctrine is the unofficial story of how the "free market" came to dominate the world, from Chile to Russia, China to Iraq, South Africa to Canada. But it is a story radically different from the one usually told. It is a story about violence and shock perpetrated on people, on countries, on economies. About a program of social and economic engineering that is driving our world, that Naomi Klein calls "disaster capitalism."

Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones, Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically, and that unfettered capitalism goes hand-in-hand with democracy. Instead, she argues it has consistently relied on violence and shock, and reveals the puppet strings behind the critical events of the last four decades.

"The shock doctrine" is the influential but little understood theory that in order to push through profoundly unpopular policies that enrich the few and impoverish the many, there needs to be some kind of collective crisis or disaster – either real or manufactured. A crisis that opens up a "window of opportunity" – when people and societies are too disoriented to protect their own interests – for radically remaking countries using the trademark tactic of rapid-fire economic shock therapy and, all too often, less metaphorical forms of shock: the shock of the police truncheon, the Taser gun or the electric prod in the prison cell.

Klein vividly traces the origins of modern shock tactics back to the economic lab of the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman in the 60s, and beyond to the CIA-funded electroshock experiments at McGill University in the 50s which helped write the torture manuals used today at Guantanamo Bay. She details, in this riveting – indeed shocking – story, the well-known events of the recent past that have been deliberate, active theatres for the shock doctrine: among them, Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; and, more recently, the September 11 attacks, the "Shock and Awe" invasion of Iraq, the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. And she shows how – in the hands of the Bush Administration – the "war on terror" is a thin cover for a thriving destruction/ reconstruction complex, with disasters, wars and homeland security fuelling a booming new economy. Naomi Klein has once again written a book that will change the way we see the world.

"The world is a messy place, and someone has to clean it up."
—Condoleezza Rice, September 2002, on the need to invade Iraq

"George’s answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chainsaw. Which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well."
—Laura Bush

From Chile to China to Iraq, torture has been a silent partner in the global free market crusade. But torture is more than a tool used to enforce unwanted policies on rebellious peoples; it is also a metaphor of the shock doctrine’s underlying logic. Torture, or in CIA language "coercive interrogation," is a set of techniques designed to put prisoners into a state of deep disorientation and shock in order to force them to make concessions against their will. ...The shock doctrine mimics this process precisely, attempting to achieve on a mass scale what torture does one on one in the interrogation cell. ...The original disaster – the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane – puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. The falling bombs, the bursts of terror, the pounding winds serve to soften up whole societies much as the blaring music and blows in the torture cells soften up prisoners. Like the terrorized prisoner who gives up the names of comrades and renounces his faith, shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect.

—from Shock Doctrine
From the Hardcover edition.

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Review:

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine advances a truly unnerving argument: historically, while people were reeling from natural disasters, wars and economic upheavals, savvy politicians and industry leaders nefariously implemented policies that would never have passed during less muddled times. As Klein demonstrates, this reprehensible game of bait-and-switch isn't just some relic from the bad old days. It's alive and well in contemporary society, and coming soon to a disaster area near you.

"At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq'' civil war, a new law is unveiled that will allow Shell and BP to claim the country's vast oil reserves... Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly outsources the running of the 'War on Terror' to Halliburton and Blackwater... After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts... New Orleans residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be re-opened." Klein not only kicks butt, she names names, notably economist Milton Friedman and his radical Chicago School of the 1950s and 60s which she notes "produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today." Stand up and take a bow, Donald Rumsfeld.

There's little doubt Klein's book--which arrived to enormous attention and fanfare thanks to her previous missive, the best-selling No Logo, will stir the ire of the right and corporate America. It's also true that Klein's assertions are coherent, comprehensively researched and footnoted, and she makes a very credible case. Even if the world isn't going to hell in a hand-basket just yet, it's nice to know a sharp customer like Klein is bearing witness to the backroom machinations of government and industry in times of turmoil. --Kim Hughes

About the Author:

NAOMI KLEIN is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and #1 international bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which has been translated into over 30 languages. Her first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, was also an international bestseller, translated into over 25 languages with more than a million copies in print. The New York Times called it "a movement bible" and TIME magazine selected it as a Top 100 Non-Fiction book (since 1923). Klein is a contributing editor for Harper's and reporter for Rolling Stone, and writes a syndicated column for The Nation and the Guardian. She is a member of the board of directors for 350.org, a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute and a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics.

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